When I came up with the idea for Natural Conclusions, I knew it was highly dependent on the kind of artwork I’d find in thrift stores. I had a vague idea that landscapes or still lifes would probably be the easiest subject to find for original paintings. They were…but I also came across a lot of other stuff too. About 15-20% of what I came across ended up working for this particular project. Here are the various reasons why pieces were either non-starters or failed along the way:
Colors too unrealistic. I found a few with background/skies that were so far beyond any natural color (hot pink) that any interpretation I’d make would bear no resemblance to the original. I was a little leery about whether Cherry Blossoms \ Shae and City Sunset / AP would work out for this reason, but the subjects were too interesting to pass up and it worked out.
Lighting too unrealistic. I came across lots of bizarre lighting for moonlit scenes. I decided that it was okay to have an unnaturally large moon (always a full moon…no love for the waxing/waning out there) as long as the scene was even a little realistic. That’s how Winter Forest \ Anonymous and Night Mountains / Brooke P made the cut.
Far too busy. I found some good candidates that I later realized had too much conflicting detail to clearly show what the landscape was. If I found myself thinking about how to simplify it – rather than how to fill in detail – then it was too busy. Since only a slice of the original would be showing it needed to still look like a landscape, and these would just look abstract.
Words. Paintings with words are popular home decoration but didn’t really fit this project. They might make for an interesting Jasper Johns-style collage. I’ve seen some fun uses of frames-with-words, like this awesome one with Skeletor.
Good enough. I really wasn’t sure if I’d find enough to work with, so sometimes I bought paintings that I later decided were pretty reasonable on their own. When I had this change of heart, I donated them back.
Material failures. I had two promising paintings that were either oil or had some kind of coating that eventually rejected the acrylic: one was a Victorian house, and one was a barn in the snow. I had practically finished the Victorian one when I removed the tape, and the layers of acrylic I’d painted lifted right up along with it. When I start each painting I always put a base isolation coat to seal them, and that lifted up too. I checked the barn (which I’d taped off but not started painting) and sure enough, the isolation coat lifted off that one too. Very disappointing.
My solo show, Natural Conclusions, is now up at Kaleid Gallery in downtown San José from now ’til March 30th. Beyond the official description, I thought I’d say a little about what these are and why I did this.
This show is the culmination of two years of collecting amateur landscapes in need of a little love. This idea came to me based on two ideas:
• remembering what it’s like to get “stuck” on a painting, knowing I wanted to improve it but not sure how (one in particular I did finish years later)
• thinking about “paint night” paintings and how they can only go so far in a couple of hours
I aimed to preserve the intent of the paintings as much as possible while “finishing” them. About half were signed so I’ve left those visible and noted them in the titles. The frames are unfinished pine that I also “finished” in the same areas as the paintings. I hope you enjoy them!
This March is my second solo show at Kaleid Gallery in downtown San José! It’s at the same venue as my first show, Prior Art, and the opening reception will be happening during San José’s First Friday art events. Come check it out!
Natural Conclusions – new paintings by Julie Meridian
March 3rd-30th, 2018 +reception Friday March 2nd 7-11pm
Kaleid Gallery, 88 S. 4th St. San Jose, CA
Open Tues-Sat 12-7pm (closed Sun & Mon)
How does someone else see or respond to the same place? What is unique in each person’s perception and expression? How can we value an experience as it is presented and also be thoughtful about progressing beyond it?
Natural Conclusions is a show of unexpected collaboration and second chances. Each painting was originally sourced from a local thrift store or flea market. Julie Meridian has chosen a portion of each to “complete” in her style, creating a study of contrasts in expressive power.
Last one in the Harvest series skews tropical with papayas. This ended up being both the biggest fruits (only four on here) with the smallest details (little black seeds).
I changed up my approach on this one and worked pretty evenly across the whole thing. This also has the most variety in colors of the set: dark green and black for the seeds, yellow and orange for the inside, and yellow, green, grass green, and a clay color to desaturate the skin.
3rd of 4 in the Harvest series – avocados, cut open to show off the green insides and shiny pits. Same approach as the others: start at the bottom and slowly develop a pattern along the way.
These are made with Prismacolor colored pencils, and on this one I used seven colors total: green and yellow for the insides (blended with ivory), grape purple and grass green for the pebbly skins, and brown, dark brown, and yellow (blended with ivory) for the pits. It took a try or two to figure out the right appearance for the pitted halves.
Another fruit in the Harvest series – this time, a little pile of blueberries. This one’s more of an experiment in subtle patterns within a dense texture. I varied the amounts of blues and purples, and tucked in the stem area here and there to aim for something random-looking but balanced. I also made the front/bottom area a higher contrast and slightly bigger so it would give a proper sense of perspective.
Like the persimmons, I started on the bottom and gradually worked my way up. It got a little tricky to avoid a pattern that was too regular. Some areas started to get that fishscale-like regularity, and I found the best way to avoid that was to jump to different parts of the image while laying out the initial blueberry outlines. I think the hand (and eye) tend towards patterns that are both (1) regular in frequency and (2) trailing off in whatever direction you write. It’s the same issue with writing sentences on whiteboards, though (annoyingly) it can happen even on a tiny scale like this. Sometimes the best thing to do is to keep interrupting and switch to something different frequently to insert the randomness yourself.
A few months ago I had a little extra time in the evening and ended up at Corridor with a glass of wine and my laptop. While I was there, I was struck by the lighting and the rhythm of the layout. Two other people were there, quietly enjoying a dinner, so I surreptitiously snagged a photo that I decided to make into a painting.As with all paintings with photo references, I start with a sketch. It’s nearly impossible to correct weird angles or proportions after the fact so I always do this when it’s from a photo. The lighting in this is a bit darker than I’ve done before – a good test of me slowly attempting to improve the balance of dark tones in my paintings. Part of the challenge is that I get them looking right in person and then the photo is just…off. When I take a photo or scan them I always need to adjust them to match what I see. The dark tones are built up from a mix of burnt umber and ultramarine blue.
I listened to the High Resolution Design podcast while painting this one. I think it helped keep me in an industrial design headspace while I was painting all of these lights.
Here’s a bright little drawing of persimmons from memory. I drew this with Prismacolor pencils to experiment with blending techniques to replicate the muted sheen on the fruit. To get this look, I lightly filled in layer of orange and red and/or brown around the edges, and then pressed hard to blend a peach color for the sheen and orange for the rest. The leaves are a mix of two shades of green, ivory, and a pinkish brown.
I started with the fruits at the bottom and completed each one before moving to the next because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to add something else in here (a pixie in hiding? a knit fruit? a glass ball? make one float up?). I briefly contemplated an Escher-like transformation of the leaves into birds. I ultimately opted to fill it in as you see because I liked the visual rhythm.
I’d started this illustration a while back during a Two Buck Tuesday event at Kaleid Gallery, and felt compelled to finish it now that we’re well into fall. I’ll be taking it full circle and bringing it back to Kaleid for the annual HARK! Holiday Show and Sale in about a month.
This is a painting of Tahuya, a spot in Washington that has a genuine inland fjord. Fjords: not all in Norway!
My sister Tiffany has a neat little place right on the water and this is a painting from a photo she took just outside. Since it’s a fjord that connects to the ocean, it’s saltwater and there are bunches of oysters, clams, and mussels. The water’s edge is littered with the shells which get bleached by the sun over time and can be seen in the shallows.
There were a couple of surprising color behaviors while I painted this. I can’t recall this happening with other paintings, but the gel that I use as an isolation coat between layers added a slightly purple sheen in some light, at some angles. That made it tricky to see my progress. Check out this video below to see how it looked mid-painting from one angle to another.
The other color trickery emerged when I got a scan of the finished painting. All of the dark areas are primarily a combination of ultramarine blue and burnt umber. The ultramarine blue in particular made the ripples look pretty dark – correct to my eye when I see it in person. The scan lost a lot of the nuance, though, and it took a half dozen adjustment layers & masks to get the image resembling the real thing. The scans usually don’t need much (if any) adjustment, and I’m not quite sure what it is about this one that made it different (technique? dynamic range?).
A sketch from a discreet location – the Palace Theater at The Speakeasy in San Francisco. Alan and I have been supporters from their earlier days as Boxcar Theater through this latest, grandest iteration of The Speakeasy. We were there this Sunday to join as extras on a little promotional material. As part of that, I had more opportunity than usual to check out the Palace Theater portion. Enjoy! Or better yet, see it yourself.